Oceans of Plastics - Scrum Gathering Austin Report

Oceans of Plastics - Scrum Gathering Austin Report

At the 2019 Global Scrum Gathering Applied Frameworks introduced attendees to #FrameworksForSocialGood with Oceans of Plastics. The principle behind #FrameworksForSocialGood is to apply the unique skills and knowledge we possess to solve challenging social problems. At the conference we engaged with hundreds of participants to come up with solutions to clean up the millions of tons of plastic waste in our oceans today, and how to reduce the amount of plastics being dumped into the oceans every year.

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Frameworks Show the Power of Community Engagement at Scrum Gathering Austin

At Scrum Gathering Austin, our team engaged with the conference attendees to raise awareness around the issue of Oceans of Plastic and demonstrated the power of #FrameworksForSocialGood.  Each day we used a different framework to guide the conference attendees along a journey that began with awareness and ended with action.

As you may recall from Austin, each day we used a different framework to guide you along a journey that began with awareness and ended with action. Here is a short summary of the frameworks we used plus links to whitepapers describing how you can use these frameworks on your own.

  1. What Lies Beneath: day #1 was about introducing the conference attendees to the problem of the Ocean of Plastic and beginning the process of examining this difficult problem from multiple perspectives.  This framework helped people think about any intermediate goals that would show we are on track, recognize any strengths we can apply to solving this problem and identify what impediments stand in our way.  The objective of this framework was to share knowledge and to begin to develop alignment among the Scrum Alliance community members about the scope and nature of the problem.

  2. Pains-Gains Map: day #2 was about exploring personal consumption of plastics and how our lives would be impacted if we all used less plastic.  In this framework, we asked the conference attendees to identify how using less plastic might inconvenience them (as “pains”) and what benefits they might realize (as “gains”) if they had less plastic in their lives.  Pains-Gains Map is an especially powerful framework to generate deep insights into the behavior of specific market segments, in this case, plastic consumers.

  3. Buy A Feature: day #3 was about decisions and action..  On the last day of the conference, we gave each participant a packet of fictitious money ($1500) and asked this question, “Which of these solutions to Oceans of Plastic would be most impactful from your perspective?”  Our goal with Buy A Feature was to discover which of the solutions were compelling enough for people to put their money where their mouth was.   

This was great experience, so thank you to everyone who visited us at the conference, engaged with the frameworks and shared their insights with us. Remember, the white papers have instructions on how to use all these frameworks, so best of luck facilitating your own #FrameworksForSocialGood!

#FrameworksForSocialGood, powerful tools for building a better world


One of Applied Frameworks’ corporate values is “Community: We support important causes through pro bono and direct contribution of time and resources.”  Recently, we asked ourselves, “How we could take our unique skills and use them to benefit the community?”  

Our answer, #FrameworksForSocialGood.  After all, the Applied Frameworks team leverages powerful collaboration frameworks to help our clients solve difficult business problems, so why not apply those same tools to solve tough social problems?

As an organization, we aspire to move from transactional community service to an ongoing state of civic responsibility.  #FrameworksForSocialGood is our way of combining our deep knowledge of frameworks, our strong sense of civic responsibility and our deep-rooted belief that only through collaboration can we solve difficult social problems.  

At the 2019 Global Scrum Gathering in Austin, we brought #FrameworksForSocialGood plus a number of collaboration frameworks to see how the Scrum community would react to our unique engagement model.  Our goal was to create some deep thinking around the difficult problem of removing plastic from the ocean and begin to build consensus on some possible solutions.  Overall, It was a fun and engaging experience for us, the organizers of the conference and the participants.  

Stay tuned to this site (and our hashtag #FrameworksForSocialGood) to learn more about the other ways we inspire others to take greater civic responsibility through collaboration frameworks.  In the meantime, we challenge you to ask yourself how you can use your unique skills to give back to your community and those around you. Also, take a moment to join our LinkedIn Group and share how you’re using your skills for good with the Applied Frameworks community

An Ocean of Plastic - #FrameworksForSocialGood

On March 18th, the body of a curvier beaked whale was retrieved from Davao Bay in the Philippines. The cause of death - starvation and dehydration as a result of ingesting ninety pounds of nylon rope, plastic bags, and other plastic objects found stuffed in the animal’s stomach!

A month later and a half a world away, a pregnant sperm whale was found dead off the coast of Sardinia. In this poor animal, marine biologist retrieved nearly fifty pounds of routine plastic products - fishing nets, fishing lines, flip flops and plastic bag, pipes, plates and drinking cups!

"These tragic stories are not isolated or freak occurrences but a series of troubling statistics that point towards growing global problem - our oceans are becoming clogged with plastic detritus and debris." said Carlton Nettleton, Chief Product Owner at Applied Frameworks.  "Something needs to be done about this complex global problem because the status quo is untenable.  If we do nothing, and continue along our current (mis)use of plastic, the oceans are going to become a plastic soup."

Since 1997, when the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was first discovered in the North Pacific gyre, our awareness of the amount of plastic clogging our oceans, and its impact to marine life, has grown.  Here are some data points meant to shock you about the severity of the problem:

  • 8,000,000 metric tons of plastic is dumped into the ocean every year, that is the equivalent of one dump truck stuffed full of plastic being dropped into the ocean every minute.

  • Today, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is nearly three times the size of Texas. In the last twenty years, four other garbage gyres have been discovered increasing the amount of the ocean’s surface covered with plastic trash equivalent to the land area of the continental United States.

  • Over 700 species of marine animals have been documented to consume ocean plastic - 90% of all sea birds, 50% of sea turtles and approximately 10% of whales and dolphins have all ingested plastic. If you have eaten seafood recently, chances are you ate plastic.

  • More then 50% of the plastic junk in the ocean today has been deposited there within the last twenty years. Yet, our efforts to recycle this garbage remains less than 10%. It is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish!

"When Carlton shared the impact of this problem with me, I knew we had a unique opportunity to help others see what we were seeing." said Jason Tanner, CEO of Applied Frameworks. "Over the course of the next three days at Scrum Gathering Austin, we are going to use our expertise with frameworks to help raise awareness of this problem, explore why we do not do more to resolve this challenge and inspire action. Based on the the guidance provided by the conference attendees, Applied Frameworks is going to make a charitable donation to a non-profit dedicated to helping clean-up the oceans."

Come visit us at Booth #600 to learn more about this problem, share your perspective, commit to making a change in your use of plastic and inspire others to change their behaviors.  Each day, we will be exploring a different elements related to the problem of an ocean of plastic to gain deeper understanding of why this challenge is so hard to resolve.

  1. May 20th - What Lies Beneath: in order to understand any complex problem, it is important to explore the issue from a variety of perspectives. Help us go below the surface to identify the various factors which contribute to the accumulation of plastic trash in the ocean.

  2. May 21st - Pains-Gains Map: to devise a lasting fix to a complex problem requires a deep understanding of the aspirations and fears of the human actors. Take time to explore the lives of plastic consumers, i.e. ourselves, by identifying what benefits and pains we could experience if we use less single-use plastic.

  3. May 22nd - Buy A Feature: there are number of interesting proposals that address the plastic contamination of the oceans from the mundane, banning straws, to the high-tech, deploying autonomous garbage drones. Help us identify which of these solutions are most appealing to you, and we will make a charitable donation to help rescue the oceans.

If you cannot make it to Scrum Gathering Austin, we will be scheduling a few on-line forums to allow you the chance to participate in this project and help understand why this problem is not getting resolved.  In the meantime, learn more about this problem, recycle the existing plastic found in your home, think of ways to reduce your use of plastic and share your direct action using our hashtag #FrameworksForSocialGood.

Is Your Value Statement Valuable?

I was recently coaching a colleague who was looking for some guidance on proper story structure.  I reminded her of the “As a <user>, I want <goal> so that <value>” format.  That led to a discussion of the <value> portion of the story because so often, the value statement is either omitted or doesn’t represent true value.  I gave her the following example:

As a banking customer, I want to pay my bills online so that I don’t have to send a check in the mail.

In the above statement, eliminating the need to send a check in the mail does not reflect the true value, rather it is merely a restatement of the goal of paying bills online in a different form.

Upon closer inspection, the value of this user story could be any number of things such as:

  • Time-savings – it takes longer to write a check, find a stamp, and mail the payment

  • Speed of payment – the customer may not want to wait the additional days it takes for the payment to be received and processed

  • Monetary-savings – if the customer has many bills to pay, they may not want to pay for stamps

  • Better record-keeping – paper records are laborious to manage, take up space, and are more easily lost or destroyed

Simon Sinek, author of the well-known book, “Start With Why” encourages readers to begin with the end in mind.  One approach for deriving intended value is using the 5 WHYS technique whereby you continue to ask WHY until you reach a root cause, or in this case, a root value statement.

  • I do not like to pay bills by check.

    • WHY?

  • It is inconvenient.

    • WHY?

  • It takes too long to mail in and process.

    • WHY?

  • I often misplace my paper bill or my checkbook.

    • WHY?

  • I carry the bill or checkbook with me in a purse, briefcase, etc. or move it to a different room with the expectation that I will have time to pay it and then I don’t get to it.

    • WHY? (does this contribute to it taking too long to process)

  • By the time I mail the payment, I am never sure if the payment will arrive and be processed on time.

In the above example, this particular customer values speed of payment, however by using the 5 WHYS questioning technique, another value was identified. The customer wants to eliminate the uncertainty of when a payment will be received and applied.  In reality, the processing time itself may not be long once the payment is received, but from the customer’s perspective, the uncertainty of when it will be processed equates to long processing time.  Although the customer may also desire some or all of the other benefits listed above, by gaining an understanding of the primary value desired by the customer, the Product Owner can more effectively prioritize backlog items.

As you create new stories and evaluate existing stories in your backlog, be cognizant of the value statement.  Does it simply restate the goal or is the true value reflected? Is the value to the customer indeterminable because the story is not written in the voice of the customer?  Your customer is your why.  You need to determine their why.